By Lee Roberts
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 26, 2017) – The idea that it is ok to kneel during the National Anthem because it is an impactful way to protest really doesn’t sit well with me. While the freedom of speech is a First Amendment right, it isn’t always wise to speak your mind or act without a little forethought and consideration for others. A less divisive approach may help these players score real change.
I was listening to a local sports talk show on the way to work this morning and one of the hosts responded to someone that his relative serves in the military and had deployed to Afghanistan three times. He said this soldier had said that he serves so that football players can enjoy the right to kneel during the National Anthem. He used his comments to tell a caller who opposed the protests that not everyone agreed with him.
I personally served 24 years and retired from the Air Force, and I’m an Operation Desert Storm veteran. I agree with this soldier that we all put on the uniform to protect freedom, which includes the freedom of speech. From the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan, men and women have fought for all Americans and defended the Constitution and Bill of Rights. At Shiloh National Cemetery in Tennessee, thousands of Union soldiers lie in graves because they fought for freedom, for these ideals.
Despite these God given rights, it still isn’t necessarily amenable to blurt out or do anything you want to. For instance, white supremacists say ungodly things to people of other races, and it’s highly offensive and inappropriate. It’s their right to say those things, but we all know it is sick hate speech. I’m not equating this example with the NFL protests, but making a point that we have to think about our actions and words despite our right to do so.
When it comes to the NFL protests, where players kneel during the National Anthem, they say they are not doing it to disrespect the country, military, law enforcement, but are only drawing attention to racism and social injustices. Their intentions are great and I support them. Every American should enjoy the same opportunities on a level playing field. I want the same for my sons, daughters, and grandchildren.
What bothers me with this issue is simply the method of protest. I heard a news commentator say yesterday that it is ok to stick a needle in your eye, but is it the right thing to do? Just because someone’s intentions are not to disrespect groups of people, if it draws negative attention, upsets wide swaths of people, and makes it where people don’t want to learn more about the intended cause, maybe adjustments should be made to keep the message positive, to affect real change. Drawing negative attention to your cause makes headlines, but also turns people off. It makes them not want to listen.
I don’t care for the method of protest because my values and morals are such that I believe that kneeling during the National Anthem is disrespectful. The reasons for the protest have nothing to do with my stance. I could care less if they were protesting lemonade.
United States Code Title 36 Chapter 10, does not impose penalties for misuse of the U.S. Flag, but in section §171 it says that all present for the National Anthem should stand, face the flag, with right hand over the heart. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed. No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States, the code says in §176.
Respect for the flag, National Anthem, is ingrained into most Americans, as described in U.S. Code. If the NFL chooses to honor the country with the playing of the National Anthem and presentation of the U.S. Flag, the organization should not allow its players to disrespect this intent. It makes no sense to support it, even if the president has offended the players and organization. Rise above it.
I’m 52 years old. I’ve been alive for every Super Bowl and know the number of the next big game based on my age. I grew up watching some of my favorite players, such as Charley Taylor, Sonny Jurgensen, Fran Tarkenton, Bert Jones, Doug Williams, Art Monk and many more. When I was a kid, watching them play was so exciting to me.
I love watching football, to the dismay of my wife, but I didn’t watch much at all this weekend because of the protests. I would rather turn the TV off than watch these players disrespect the country, albeit not their intention. I hope we can get this behind us soon so I can get back to what I want to watch, and that is the game.
I encourage the NFL to work with the players to find solutions. Give them other vehicles to get their message of change out to the public. Let’s respect our country, and make this effort for positive change far less abrasive, yet effective. And on the field, let’s get back to the game itself.